Our farms produce millions of pounds of chicken, peaches and lettuce every year. Grocery stores stock over 100,000 competitively priced items in Fresno and Clovis. Local pantries and charities give away over 22 million pounds of food a year. But when food is distributed at a new sites, lines two blocks long start forming at 5:30 am. Tens of thousands of people whose children could receive breakfast and lunch at school ration food a few days per month. Many of these people are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. How much need for food is there? If we knew how many pounds of food are needed, when and where it is needed and the kinds of food needed, our relief food agencies could make timely purchases to meet people’s needs. Fresno Hunger Count developed a survey to provide this information.
In 2014 Fresno Hunger Count sent 40 surveyors into neighborhoods that had a median income of 200% of the Federal Poverty Level or less in Fresno and Clovis to talk to people one on one about food shortages. They interviewed over 42,000 heads of households, more than half of whom said they experienced food shortages in the previous 12 months. Surveyors asked questions only about food shortages. They did not ask the name of the respondents, their legal status or eligibility for food stamps or other assistance. They did, however, write down their addresses so that food shortage information could be reported by location.
The 2014 Fresno Hunger Report features heat maps that show where hunger is the most severe in each of the 75 census tracts where the survey was conducted. Relief food agency officials can see where the hunger is block by city block. A table showing how many pounds of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and fresh fruits and vegetables are needed each month is displayed along with the heat map. Relief food personnel can readily see from the map and table where food is needed, when it is needed, the quantities that are needed and the kinds of foods that are needed. The information in the hunger report enables relief food agencies to plan timely food purchases to provide the right kind of food when and where it is needed and in the quantities needed. Besides providing detailed information for planning food purchases, the hunger report also projects a sense of scale. Twenty-six million pounds of food are needed to adequately nourish the 64,388 people in food insecure households in the survey area. The amount of food needed exceeds the present relief food supplied. There needs to be a big increase in CalFresh participation, Women Infants and Children (WIC) funding and other public assistance as well as a near doubling of private sector food relief to deliver the 26 million pounds of food needed according to the report.